He has yet to harden. It's only been two months. He's started wearing her clothes but still coughs at her pipe. He manages a loose grasp on the outside world; he hasn't noticed it fading yet. He wears more bandages than clothes. He looks like a mummy. It's warm out. He looks like a hot mummy. They visit every day but he's caught on to the meaning of her condition in relation to his, the implications have yet to settle: she's still relatively close and he still manages to keep him relatively far.

She sits on the other side of the road and he sits right inside the gate and they talk for hours. Sometimes they have nothing to say so they just listen to the wind. He usually bakes or cooks her something during the day and they eat together. Himawari-chan told Doumeki which school her parents wished for her to attend. It's far. She doesn't want to tell Watanuki until she has to, but Doumeki needed to hear it. He feels a little bit awkward and a little bit sick for a while after. He shouldn't be kind of glad, shouldn't feel sort of relieved… but he does.

He has yet to make a choice, and doesn't think he'll make it for a while. He's set on a lot of other things though. He knows what he wants. What he wishes. What he wishes he didn't want, what he wishes he didn't have to wish, what he hopes is a dream and really isn't. There's nothing he can do anything about anymore. It's taxing, not knowing what to do with himself, more so than anything he's ever felt before.

They're so certain about some things and so oblivious to others. Worried. Unworried. In denial. Stuck inside their own heads, wishing, willing things to be different yet knowing no way out. Knowing no other path, no possible exit way, no rewind button, no fast-forward, knowing nothing at all. Knowing themselves? Maybe. Knowing each other? Maybe. There are no more certainties, no more balance. There had never been.

Now, they are aware. And also aware of what they're not aware, or the fact that they were not aware before.

Things are more complicated. Things are more black and white. Different. The same. They can't say they've moved on. They're stuck. Still. Waiting. Not waiting anymore. Making decisions. Not making decisions. Himawari told him today, from the other side of the street. She said:

"Watanuki, there's something I have to tell you." She took him and his situation, his condition, in mind, but even then she said. "I don't know if you know this but…" At first she tried to be gentle, subtle. "It's graduation soon." And when she didn't get a response she finally just said. "The university I'm attending… is very far. I… I won't be able to come see you every day anymore." She didn't know what else to say for the day so she left him there to think.

It was the beginning of another subtle, not subtle, sudden, very sudden change in his existence, their routine.

Doumeki, to Watanuki's royal annoyance, proved to be doing quite the opposite. "I'm going to study folklore."

"Why? Where?"

"Here. Because." Watanuki did press forward, but nothing else came out. "Do you need anything?"

"What? What do you mean?" Why are you so… unlike you? Nice? I guess?

"You can't leave. Sooner or later you're going to start needing things."

"Lotus root. Konnyaku. And I'm running low on dashi stock."

"I'll go after class."

It was the beginning of yet another subtle, very subtle change that would later greatly affect their daily routines.

It was an end, and also a beginning. Whether they were aware of it or not.